The image of Warsaw as a gloomy concrete jungle with very little appeal remains only with people who have not been in this lively city in the past decade. Of course, the Polish capital undoubtedly has its fair share of problems, with strips of suburbs dominated by uninviting Soviet-era architecture – but this only makes a small part of the big picture. Warsaw has become a modern metropolis that has a thriving nightlife, impressive cultural scene, and swathes of fascinating attractions.
And it is a true survivor. It was the most destructed city by the end of the Second World War, about 85% of Warsaw was in ruins and most of its population had fled, been deported, sent to concentration camps, or killed. Almost half of the city’s population before the war was Jewish, but there are scarcely any traces of this heritage remaining by the end of the hostilities.
Much of the city’s historic center was thoroughly rebuilt in the years following the WWII. It was initiated by the communist authorities, surprising its citizens as well as the West. The extraordinarily successful reconstruction of the city’s Old Town was rewarded in 1980, when it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Warsaw spans the Vistula River, but almost all of the city’s major tourist spots, including the historic center, are found on the left bank. The increasingly stylish Praga district is located in the river’s right bank.
The Royal Route is Warsaw’s tourist epicenter. It dissects the Old and New Towns, past the trendy Nowy Świat shops, the palaces that endured the war, and Łazienki Park’s royal gardens, before getting to Wilanów Palace to the south.
Warsaw also boasts numerous green spaces, with lush parks where you’ll see rowing boats cruising past outdoor cafes and eateries during the summer. There are also free classical concerts that attract huge crowds in a lively scene far detached from the city’s gray Communist-era images.
Today, Warsaw’s nightlife atmosphere is one of the most vibrant in all of Eastern Europe – world-class bars and clubs that dot the city and attracts the young and not-so-young crowds. In addition, dining options in the city have improved a lot in the past years, with delectable Polish cuisine regularly served alongside international standards.
May to October is Warsaw’s peak tourist season. This is the period when the weather in the city is most welcoming. The months of January and February are the coldest months. Temperatures in winter can drop below zero.